Yesterday was many things: Father’s Day, the first day of summer, and, not insignificantly, the day Israeli tourism officials spent somewhere around $150,000 to set up a mock Tel Aviv beach in New York’s Central Park, to celebrate the Israeli city’s centennial. We were a touch skeptical of the marketing effort—there seems something a little silly about trucking tons of sand to a grassy Manhattan field and then pretending it’s a Mediterranean shoreline—but we’ve got to admit the pictures of a sandy Naumberg bandshell, that area just south of the Bethesda Terrace and just north of the mall, look rather lovely. (We’re not complaining about the Kadima-playing sabras, either.) Indeed, today’s various press reports seem to suggest a good time was had by all, even a French tourist who told Ynet he’d never seen such a vibrant beach and that he therefore now wants to visit the real one. (No doubt music to the ears of corporate sponsor El Al.) Only a few people were unhappy: JTA editor Ami Eden, who discovered both that the free trip to Israel he’d won didn’t include airfare and that his daughter lost her Crocs, and the people at Al-Awda, the Palestinian right to return coalition in New York, who issued a statement to Mondoweiss blogger Antony Loewenstein noting that “in reality the event is a celebration of ethnic cleansing and genocide.” Also, there were popsicles.
Jesse Oxfeld, a former executive editor and publisher of Tablet Magazine, is a freelance theater critic. He was The New York Observer’s theater critic from 2009 to 2014.